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Interest rates, energy prices and inflation are all rising. Here's how our readers are dealing with the cost of living

Interest rates, energy prices and inflation are all rising. Here's how our readers are dealing with the cost of living

11 July, 2022

The cost of living is on the rise and your hip pocket might be feeling emptier than usual, so we asked our readers to share their tips on coping with rising expenses.

Here are some of the ways they're curbing their spending, as well as money-saving advice from experts.

How can I spend less on food?

With inflation and wild weather impacting food prices, it could be time to ditch some luxuries and change up the menu. 

Here are some expert tips for saving while shopping for groceries: 

  • Shop for seasonal produce
  • Buy meat closer to its expiry date and freeze it
  • Bulk purchase staples when they go on special
  • Only buy what you need 

And don't forget to bring your own bag while you're at it — every cent counts. 

Here is what our readers told us they have been doing. 

"Plan your weekly meals and stick to your shopping list. Be flexible and purchase items that are better value on the day and cut back on luxury items such as soft drinks and chocolate. Be sensible with your purchases." — Katrina, NSW 

"I've cut back on meat-based meals (now only once per week) in the weekly shop, opting for beans or veggie soup as replacement meals. I also only buy one or two coffees per week, make my own snacks (like Anzac biscuits) & take my lunch to work if in the office. I don't buy takeaway food at all, and limit drinks and meals out to once per fortnight." — Kerri, Vic 

"Too many people think chickpeas, assorted dried beans and even lentils come in cans. If you purchase dry, cook a quantity (not lentils, they cook quickly) and freeze in bags. You are more likely to use the required amount — a handful, half a tin, one and a half tin equivalents when not restricted to one-tin quantities." — Margaret, NSW 

Should I start planting now?

If you have access to a backyard or a garden, Tony from Victoria suggests putting your green fingers to the test. 

"Use space in your property to grow vegetables and other foods."

Hazel from New South Wales shared her journey growing food in a small space. 

"I'm starting a garden to grow veggies from seeds. I'm in a small block … in a ground floor flat so I'm having the garden bed under my window. If it doesn't get trashed by 'people', then I'll make it bigger. It'll make a big difference to my fresh food intake and it is cheaper than buying seedlings. Not sure which of those two is best but both would get people fresh vegetables." 

And if you don't have the luxury of space, horticulturist Phil Murray says a polystyrene box or a potting mix bag will do the trick.

For starters, he recommends these easy-to-grow plants: 

  • Tomatoes 
  • Capsicums 
  • Shallots 
  • Lettuce 
  • Beans 
  • Herbs 

Aged pensioner Adrienne from Queensland shared her success story. 

"I have purchased a mini hothouse and I'm going to try to grow lettuces and tomatoes. I'm already growing passionfruit, mangoes, and fresh herbs. As an aged pensioner, I am hoping this will help with the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables and being organically grown, be much healthier for me. I also have planted out pineapple tops and so far have harvested four pineapples (delicious) over a three-month period. The sense of achievement is a huge benefit as well." 

How can I save electricity?

The current energy crisis and calls to conserve power under the threat of blackouts has led many people to review their energy consumption

Here are some simple things you can do around your home to cut down on power usage:

  • Adjust your temperature settings 
  • Run your laundry with cold water where possible 
  • Install energy-efficient appliances or lights 
  • Take advantage of natural sunlight and block draughts in your home 

Be mindful of appliances that suck electricity even when they are not in use

Experts also suggest searching the market for better energy deals and switching providers. 

Here are some creative ways others have reduced their power usage.

"Saving on electricity costs by running washing machine and dishwasher at the times when tariffs are projected to be lower." — Kaz, Vic

"Investing in improvements to home insulation — double glazed windows, ducted heating and using our most electricity in daylight using solar power." — Kristy, NSW 

"I use an electric throw blanket when watching TV every night. It costs $50 and saves heaps on power bill." — Rae QLD 

"Solar diverter to send surplus solar to water heater. Installed one of these to minimise export to the grid when it isn't wanted by the grid. Avoid using coal powered off peak for water heating. Makes economic sense if your feed-in tariff is lower than your off-peak tariff and makes environmental sense by avoiding coal fired power." — Brian, NSW 

It's good to also know your options if your energy bill busts your wallet

Does working remotely save money?

"As some companies are trying to increase number of working from office days vs WFH, it is in the financial interest of the employee to work from home, given the cost for fuel increasing by the week (and it is a big environmental impact, too). We have proven to be at least as productive from the home environment." — Heidi, TAS 

Heidi makes a good point. 

Cutting the commute out of the equation means saving on time, transportation costs such as fares and fuel, and even that morning cup of coffee. 

Since the start of the pandemic, workers have been allowed to claim 80 cents per hour worked from home on top of running expenses under a new calculation method.

The short method is simpler to claim and does not require you to have a home office, but it is set to end in June. After that, you'll need to use either the fixed rate or actual cost methods to work out your work from home deductions.

Between this calculation change and electricity prices going up, it's hard to say whether working from home is cost-effective.

Whether you're working remotely or are back in the office, there are still ways to trim your travel expenses. 

"I now ride a bike to work every work day, saving around $500 per month (including inner city parking fees)." — Brett, SA 

"I consider each time I leave the house whether I NEED to go out or whether I can make other arrangements. I also plan public transport use — if I don't need to travel into the city, I will work from home." — Lisa, Vic

Others have changed their housing situation.

"Moved in with a parent as an adult." — Perry, Vic

"We have deliberately downsized to be closer to public transport and shops and use the car much less now. We also think twice now about long overseas flights." — Anke, NSW 

How can I save money without trying?

Money experts say it can be as easy as assessing your spending first, before moving on to decisions such as culling memberships and renegotiating bills. 

You can even review big commitments such as mortgage repayments and consider doing the following:

  • Make fortnightly repayments 
  • Use an offset account to pay off variable home loans 
  • Search for the best deal with the lowest rate 
  • Make extra payments in advance, if possible 
  • Pay off both your principal and interest at the same time 

Here's how some readers have tweaked their lifestyles to live on a budget. 

"I have switched to growing and making more home cooked meals, stock, biscuits, muffins and bread to cut costs and reduce plastic waste. I've also put a bike and trailer on lay-by to reduce using my car when I go buy the rest of the groceries." — Kate, QLD 

"I'm a single mother and have raised 3 wonderful kids that are now all graduating from university and have found jobs in their chosen professions. We NEVER had the internet on at home. I just couldn't afford it so my three children had to be resourceful and use Uni Library, cafes, friends houses, USB sticks to download articles, essays, etc. and use uni printers and so on. YES it was another stressor & extra effort in their already busy lives. However, it's doable. So to all those parents who are urban dwellers, PLEASE don't think it's the ONLY way. I now am the proud mum of an accountant, vet and a lawyer." — Megan, SA 

"Switched to a different internet plan and saved over $600 a year. Cancelled movie channels on Pay TV and saved $120 a year. Ditched the landline and saved $360 a year. Also started buying specials at supermarket." — Lisa, NSW 

"Eating out is a picnic or BBQ at the beach or in a park with family or a group of friends. The kids don't mind one bit and have much more room to play. Holidays are a camping trip. No air travel. There are plenty of sites & interesting places you can visit without travelling far. Entertainment can be watching a DVD or visiting friends or family, going to free public entertainment & free venues." — Ian, NT 

"A few years back when I moved into my current home, I planned to reduce my costs and carbon footprint by having insulation blown into my exterior walls. I also changed all my appliances to electric and chose the most energy-efficient models I could afford. From experience in a previous property, I concluded that solar hot water was a waste of space and time. So I went for … an induction electric hob and a split system heating and cooling solution which could do all of my home heating needs. That meant I could turn off the gas supply." — Geoffrey, Vic